There's been a lot of talk about Chechnya in the last few days.
For those of you living under a rock, the Boston bombings have been linked to two brothers-- both of Chechen descent. With one brother now dead, a massive manhunt is underway for the second brother, 19-year-old Dzohkhar A. Tsarnaev (joh-HAR tsar-NAH-yev).
So where is Chechnya and what link does this obscure region have to the Boston bombings?
For starters, there have been no reports linking these brothers to any political or jihadist affiliation. While their Chechen heritage has been put in the spotlight, their motives for the bombing are still largely unknown as Chechnya isn't a nation often equated with Al-Qaeda. In fact, it's not a nation linked to Arabs, either. Chechens are closer to Russians than to Arabs, in many ways.
Here are four questions many people are asking about Chechnya:
1. Where is Chechnya? Chechnya is located in the former U.S.S.R.
Currently, it's a part of Russia, with a large part of its economic growth financed by Moscow. It's situated between the Caspian and Black Seas-- an area commonly known as the Caucasus. There are many different ethnicities occupying the Caucasus, but the population can be largely construed as Caucasian.
2. Who are the Chechens and Dagestanis? In the north live the Chechans and the Dagestanis. They've long resisted Russian colonialization, writes National Geographic.
Russia has been maintaining a stronghold on this area for hundreds of years and the Chechens have resisted. There have been mass killings on both ends of the fight--including the massacres of whole towns by the Russian armies.
As the result of this resistance, the Chechen population has dwindled over the last two hundred years. They've been the "outsiders" in the former Soviet empire and the , even deported to Siberia during Soviet rule by Joseph Stalin.
3. Is there a jihaad in Chechnya? The war in Chechnya isn't a typical "jihaad," as we hear of in mainstream media. It's not a war to place Sharia law over a nation. In fact, what's most interesting is that Sharia law was only placed in Chechnya after the Russians put their pro-Moscow leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in charge of Chechnya, writes The Christian Science Monitor.
The war in Chechnya is a war for nationalism and separatism. The Chechens essentially want their independence. The area has been plagued with back-to-back wars since 1994.
Over the years, the Chechens have endured unspeakable violence and ethic cleansing at the hands of Russia. According to The Christian Science Monitor, this carnage was vividly captured in Leo Tolsoy's novel, Hadji Murat.
They were most recently invaded by Vladimir Putin's army in 1999, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
4. Why would Chechan rebels want to kill Americans? Historically, Chechnya has little to do with America and there isn't any understandable nexus between the Boston attacks and the Chechen nationalistic movement. The brothers originally hail from Chechnya and lived briefly in Makhachkala, reports The New York Times.
For years, Russia has been trying to get the United States on board in the fight to tame Chechnya. America hasn't taken a huge role in assisting the Russians against Chechnya. Furthermore, there hasn't been enough of a link between Chechen rebels and any anti-American movement, such as Al-Qaeda or Taliban, writes The Christian Science Monitor. So even with the recent attacks, it's hard to say if the United States will take a stance on the war in Chechnya.
It's hard to say what the aftermath of the Boston bombings will be and what effect it will have on Russian-US relations. As more details unfold, the motives and any underlying affiliations will become clear. Until then, the world can only sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the events to unfold like a bad movie.